New Jersey Fair Chance in Housing Act Helps Ex-Offenders Find a Place to Live

Criminal Background Check

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

On June 3, 2021, the New Jersey Senate and State Assembly passed the “Fair Chance in Housing Act” (Assembly Bill 1919) that will give ex-offenders leaving prison a better chance of finding a place to live despite their criminal records and sent the Act to New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, who is expected to sign the bill into law.

The “Ban the Box” bill would prohibit potential landlords from asking about criminal history before making a conditional offer to rent, but they would be able to ask about a criminal record in the application if the person was a registered sex offender or was convicted of making Methamphetamine in federally assisted housing.

After the conditional offer, landlords may consider whether an applicant was convicted of murder, aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping, arson, or human trafficking. They may also consider indictable first-degree offenses issued within six years, second or third-degree offenses within four years, or fourth-degree offenses within a year.

Landlords should consider the nature and severity of the criminal offense, the age of the applicant at the time of the occurrence of the criminal offense, the time which has elapsed since the occurrence of the criminal offense, and whether the criminal offense, if it reoccurred, would negatively impact the safety of other tenants or property.

If a conditional offer is withdrawn, the landlord must provide the applicant with written notification of the reason for the withdrawal and a notice advising the applicant of the right to file a complaint with the Attorney General. The applicant may request information relied upon for the withdrawal within 20 days of the notice.

Second chance programs and Ban the Box laws that help ex-offenders with a prior criminal record find housing and work will continue to evolve, according to the “ESR Top Ten Background Check Trends” for 2021 compiled by Employment Screening Resources® (ESR), a leading global provider of background checks.

Attorney Lester Rosen, ESR founder and chief executive officer (CEO), wrote the article “Starting a First Chance Movement is Critical to the Success of the Second Chance Movement” about how a First Chance movement should impact factors that lead a person to the criminal justice system and incarceration in the first place.

“Rather than ask employers to bear the brunt of the burden to provide employment opportunities for former offenders, the entire country should focus on providing a means to deflect people away from the criminal justice system in the first place,” wrote Rosen, the author of “The Safe Hiring Manual,” a guide to background checks.

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – which was named the #1 screening firm in 2020 by HRO Today – offers a white paper on “Ten Critical Steps for Ex-Offenders to Get Back into the Workforce,” an “ESR Ban the Box Resource Guide,” and a Ban the Box Resource Page. To learn more about ESR, visit www.esrcheck.com.

NOTE: Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) does not provide or offer legal services or legal advice of any kind or nature. Any information on this website is for educational purposes only.

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